Oklahoma Guardsmen take first place at Cyber Shield 2023

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erika Chapa
  • 137th Special Operations Wing

Oklahoma National Guard members, including three 137th Special Operations Communications Squadron Airmen, participated in a two-week cyber defense exercise June 2-16, 2023, alongside approximately 800 military and civilian cyber professionals at the Professional Education Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

For the second year in a row, the joint OKNG team showcased the “Oklahoma Standard” by winning first place in the exercise, outperforming teams from more than 20 states and territories, in addition to five National Guard state partnership program groups. 

Cyber Shield 2023 focused on industrial control and protection, including a virtual capture the flag competition to test each team's ability to capture key information regarding enemy activity on a network.

“It goes without saying the cyber domain is a dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing environment and requires highly-trained and prepared Airmen,” said Maj. Tyler Davis, commander of the 137th SOCS. “Cyberspace dominance is paramount to effectively projecting global air and space power, and the Airmen of the 137th Special Operations Communications Squadron are at the leading edge.”

As cyber warfare continues to evolve, the Department of Defense focuses on continuing to develop, train and exercise cyber forces within areas of computer network internal defense measures and cyber incident responses.

“Cyber is an entire different domain of warfare,” said 2nd Lt. Chad Chudoba, officer in charge for the 137th SOCS mission defense team. “We’re essentially coming on to the battlefield and assessing the terrain to conduct reconnaissance, determine where the enemy is and clear them out of that terrain. And then, once we take that terrain, we do what we can to build up our defenses and hold that terrain from the enemy.”

Cyber Shield is the largest DoD unclassified cyber defense exercise and provides cyber challenges to participants through hands-on exercises and collaborative workshops. Furthermore, participants had the opportunity to obtain additional cyber-related certificates through volunteer courses. 

“This exercise not only improved the training, skills and knowledge of the Airmen who were able to physically attend Cyber Shield 2023, but it also allows them to bring this information back to the unit and provide critical training and information to all our other 137th Special Operations Cyber professionals once back in garrison,” Davis added.

Among the attendees, cyber professionals from Oklahoma’s State Partnership Program country Azerbaijan developed and strengthened their skills. This was the first time Azerbaijan participated in Cyber Shield.

“Since Cyber Shield is the largest unclassified exercise of its kind within the DoD with over 800 total participants, it allowed a few of our Airmen to participate and have the opportunity to improve their skills and collaborate with other governmental agencies, other Guard units and with our partner nations.” said Davis.